Many employers don’t realize that employees’ feelings about the companies they work for are often shaped in the first weeks and months on the job. It’s a critical window of time for employees to find out about the companies they work for and whether the company, culture and co-workers are a good fit.
It’s a time period too important to leave to chance. Studies show there’s one common factor for many employees who leave companies within six months of the time they were hired: A lack of new-hire support. Studies show that as many as half of employees who quit jobs soon after hiring had little in the way of onboarding assistance — or none at all.
Why is onboarding a new employee so important? Researchers say employees’ impressions of their companies are formed much earlier and more solidly than employers realize. And if those impressions are negative, they may not stick with that employer, even if later experiences at the company are more positive. How well does your company welcome new employees in their first days and weeks? Here are some elements of an effective onboarding program:
- Early communication. Sending several get-acquainted e-mails detailing what the employee can expect on their first days and weeks on the job can do a lot to relieve stress caused by fear of the unknown. A phone call the day before the employee begins is ideal. Ask if he or she has any questions before the first day.
- A special first day. Send out an e-mail to your team letting them know about the new hire. Make sure the new hire’s work station is ready. .
- Assistance well beyond the first days and weeks. Onboarding should be continued through the early months and beyond.
- A mentor or ‘buddy’. Having someone other than the boss to ask questions can be extremely helpful. Google calls them ‘peer buddies’. The key is to have someone a new hire can feel comfortable with who can provide support and encouragement.
- A culture of celebrating new hires. Order in lunch or take your team out to lunch on the employee’s first day. It’s a great way to celebrate a new hire and make them feel special.
- Social support. Provide opportunities for new employees to get to know their co-workers. Research shows that an employee with a social network on the job is more likely to remain with the employer over the long term.
- An empathetic and interested boss. Don’t wait for the employee to come to you with questions or concerns. Make yourself accessible in the first days and weeks. Don’t just stop by the new hire’s desk on the way to somewhere else. Make sure they have time to ask you questions and provide input on their experiences, confidentially if needed.